Microsoft moves closer to pay parity in US, room for improvement elsewhere

Women and people of color who work at Microsoft are seeing better pay balance, according to a blog post by the company. Written by Kathleen Hogan, executive vice president of Microsoft human resources, the blog revealed how CEO Satya Nadella set out three areas of focus for diversity and inclusion 18 months ago — recruiting more diverse talent, expanding training to foster a more diverse culture and equal pay and opportunity. At that time, female Microsoft workers in the US earned 99.7 cents for the same job title and level. It has since risen to 99.8 cents for every dollar — not exactly full parity, but improvement.

Some other bright spots in the post, noting that today is National Equal Pay Day in the US, include how racial and ethnic minorities at Microsoft in the US earn $1.004 for every $1 earned by their white counterparts. African American/black employees are at $1.006 for every $1, Hispanic/Latino(a) employees are at 99.9 cents and Asian employees sit at $1.006 for every $1 earned by white employees at the same job title and level.

“If we want to build products and services for everyone on the planet, we need to represent everyone on the planet,” noted Hogan. “Having a diverse and inclusive workforce is indeed a powerful bridge to the markets and people we serve.”

The Microsoft announcement, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal (PSBJ), is part of a broader desire for Boston-based activist investor Arjuna Capital, who has demanded, through proxy resolutions, to see pay equality be taken seriously by some of Silicon Valley’s (and Seattle’s) top tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Ebay.

Late last month, Amazon reported that women earn 99.9 per cent as much as men in the company — but it still attempted to rebuff Arjuna Capital's measure demanding that the company produce a report on pay equity. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruled against the e-commerce giant, paving the way for a vote at their June shareholders' meeting.

Intel announced that it achieved 100 per cent gender equity on pay last February and Apple is approaching that number with 99.6 per cent equal pay.

“The excellent moves by Intel and now Apple on gender pay equity mean that the clock is ticking for the rest of America's major technology companies,” said Natasha Lamb, director of equity research and shareholder engagement, at Arjuna Capital.

“Silicon Valley can no longer claim this is an issue unworthy of its attention. Gender pay equity is critical to creating a diverse and innovative workforce and tech companies cannot sit this discussion out – they have to speak up for fair pay. Soon we will see which companies join Intel and Apple as leaders … and which end up tagged as laggards on paying women a fair wage. Now, the big question is: Can you be an Amazon, or an Ebay, or a Google, or a Microsoft and be pegged as the last major tech company to take action on gender pay equity?"

Though the news is encouraging, there are still some glaring holes. Less that 25 per cent of Amazon’s managers are women. Women also make up only 17 per cent of software engineers nationally — the PSBJ noted that it is only 14 per cent in Washington state. Additionally, Microsoft’s female workforce declined to 26.8 per cent of Microsoft’s overall workforce, down from 29 per cent in 2014, due, according to the company, to the divesting of Microsoft’s phone business.

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